More than 100 people took to the streets of Montford and downtown Asheville on May 12 to march for LGBTQ rights. Organizers with equal-rights group Just Us For All said they hoped the “We’re Not Bashful” rally would serve as a catalyst to expand the LGBTQ movement in Asheville.
Last year, hundreds took to the streets for a similar rally in response to a series of alleged assaults on LGBTQ individuals in Montford. In a statement posted on Facebook, organizers said they hope to make it an annual event: “Hopefully one day it’ll be a celebration and a realization of how much things have changed.
“As we all know, gay bashings, homophobia, transphobia, and blatant actions of violence still occur in our city,” it adds.
Driving that point home, Christina Isabella Tiongson asked marchers gathered at the Vance Monument to raise their hands if they had been victims of abuse because of their sexual orientation. About half of them raised their hands. Tiongson said that she’d been the victim of hate crimes three times in the last year alone.
“We need love, we need safety, we need each other!” she declared before leading the crowd in chants of “I am here! I am not bashful!”
The group was joined by Asheville City Council candidates Chris Pelly and Marc Hunt, as well as Council member Gordon Smith, who touted a sweeping equality ordinance the Council passed in February. The resolution added protections for sexual orientation, gender and gender identity to the city’s employment-discrimination policy; crafted an ordinance prohibiting bullying on city grounds; created an official domestic-partner registry; and endorsed the idea of civil-marriage rights for same-sex couples.
Photos by Jerry Nelson